Former Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has clearly rejected reports in a section of the media that he had a role in granting clearance to the controversial Sterlite copper plant in Tuticorin.
“The facts speak for themselves. I became Minister of Environment and Forests on May 31, 2009. The Sterlite project received three rounds of clearances on March 30, 2007, August 9, 2007 and January 1, 2009 – all before I assumed charge as the Minister concerned”, he said in a statement to PTI.
The senior Congress leader said on March 10, 2010 and August 11, 2010 he answered a question in the Lok Sabha on environmental clearances asked by a Member of Parliament.
He said he did so based on information made available to him in the official files of the ministry. The answer was factual and there was no hint whatsoever that he had misled the Lok Sabha.
Had he done so, then the MPs concerned would have surely protested, he said. “I have consistently refrained from speaking of my tenure as Minister of Environment and Forests in the belief that my record must speak for itself. But when facts are deliberately distorted and packaged in such a manner to call into question my role, I am forced to respond”, he said.
Violence had erupted in Tuticorin on May 22 when a massive gathering of people took out a rally against the Sterlite copper plant.
In the police firing that day and on May 23, 13 people were killed.
Ramesh termed as ‘horrendous’ the killing of 13 people as he attacked both the Centre and state governments for its approach towards people’s agitation for livelihood.
“What has happened in recent days in Toothukudi is truly horrendous. It reflects not only the state government’s mindset but also the approach of the Modi government to people’s agitations and protests on issues relating to livelihood and health”, he said.
He said Tuticorin reflects the dark side of the so-called ‘ease of doing business’ of the Union government.
In a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange, Vedanta, which runs the Sterlite copper plant, said the Tamil Nadu pollution control board had on May 23 ordered disconnection of power supply and closure of the plant.
Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu like DMK, PMK, Congress and MNM had slammed the violence and police action, while top actor Rajinikanth, who is slated to launch his political party, had held the government responsible for the deaths.